It's easy to forget, so it bears occasional reminding, that at this very moment, your feet (or some other flattened part of your body) are glued to a planet. You know, a planet. Think Galileo, telescopes, gas giants, elliptical orbits, etc. A planet.
Yes, it's true.
Don't believe me? Jump as high as you can. See? Amazing isn't it? Serious glue, that gravity.
Okay, the more scientific minded among you felt quite secure in that understanding already. But do you really realize how profound that connection is? There's day, and there's night. Depending on your latitude, there are seasons of hot and cold, sun and rain, calm and storms. Here in the temperate northern hemisphere, the seasons are profound. At the summer solstice, day is a whopping 6+ hours longer than at the winter solstice.
Then, we have the two equinoxes (as a Latin major it is hard for me not to write the correct form "equinoces" here), where we particularly fall victim to confusion. When light and dark are perfectly balanced, should we be happy (lots of sun) or should we spiral into melancholy (hey, where'd the sun go)? It's no accident that samhain (i.e., Halloween) is near the autumnal equinox. The mixing of light and dark equates to the mixing of the living and the dead.
We are creatures of the Earth, after all. The further we stray from the bountiful equator and its uniformity of climate, the more vulnerable we are to fatal miscalculations. You better build your shelter in the heat in order to live through the cold. You better grow your food in the sun in order to eat when the branches are bare.
Modern conveniences can largely tame the Earth. Of course, if we're not smart with our resources, one day our number will be up. However, for now the constant burn of fuel fires up the cold, chills away the heat, and rips away the dark. Don't get me wrong, the power of the Earth still punches through. Why do so many holidays and festivals featuring light exist around the winter solstice (Hanukkah, Christmas, pagan rituals, etc.)? Despite our soft white bulbs and plasma TV's, the unending nights still depress the hell out of us.
The dark. That one is special. No slow growth towards spring. No slow death in autumn. It happens every day. The sun sinks fast enough you can actually see it bleed away into the horizon. If you're not in it right now, you're going to be in a little while.
Have you ever walked in a forest at night? The imperfectly lit streets of a city at three in the morning are unimaginably more friendly. What is so powerful about the dark? Well, first, a lack of light shrinks the world. We have trouble conceiving or accepting what we can't see. Without those happy little photons bouncing off the far landscape and landing in our eyes, our minds can't stretch much farther than a stone's throw from where we stand. What could be out there where the shadows shroud our ability to know? Anything. Everything.
So there we are, you and I, in our tiny islands of understanding in the night. Restful. Peaceful. The world is no longer bustling. Nothing is pushing between you and your own mind. It's a tantalizing convergence of circumstances, isn't it? Just when you are especially plugged into yourself, your mind is swelling to weave a replacement world for the larger, real one which has winked out of existence. That time bring so many opportunities. You can populate your private world with fear (You can never prove a negative, can you? For instance, you can never prove that there ISN'T a hideous creature behind you always keeping just beyond the edge of your sight). Or, you can populate your private world with your dearest dreams. Ever notice how much more beautiful a face can be in the half light of a candle? That's your private world casting its spell.
That is clarity of night-- the connection which forms in the solitude of darkness between your freed mind and your propensity to really listen to what it has to say.
The subtitle of this blog is Irreverence, Insights, and the Uncanny. The insights, we've covered. Here is a place to share them. As for the uncanny, it's difficult to walk the halls of night and not bump into a few ghosts along the way, because remember, in our private world, even the imagined ghost is real. If you delight in feathery chills running over your skin and in heart-pumping good scares, this is a place to share that too.
Lastly, irreverence. Part of giving in to free thinking is letting go of tradition for tradition's sake. No belief should be held without a thorough testing and retesting by each person who holds it. Unscrutinized faith is the surest path to evil, because being absolutely certain of anything is the surest sign that you're wrong. We'll be knocking around a few traditions and beliefs here. Free thinking demands it.